If you have been reading my blog for a while, you should know that my engineering background makes “big things” must see for me. So on a recent trip to San Francisco I took advantage of the time to visit the Golden Gate Bridge on more than one occasion.
One of the most iconic structures in the United States, the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, connecting San Francisco with Marin County, to the north. The Golden Gate is the name of the strait that connects the San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean. The bridge is 1.7 miles long and its roadway is 220 feet above the mean high water mark.
By US National Park [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
One problem with sight-seeing in San Francisco is unpredictable weather. The cold water of the Pacific Ocean is a fog generator, and every morning that we were in town started as a cloudy, foggy day. So one morning I headed to the bridge with the hope that the skies would clear. Unfortunately they didn’t. The clouds remained in place. When I arrived I could barely see the bridge from the overlook next to the highway.
Like many people that day, I walked out far enough to take some photos, then it was back to my car to head for warmer climes.
A couple of days later I returned. This time it was a beautiful, sunny day. The Golden Gate Bridge loomed over the bay. The support towers rise 760 feet above the water, 540 feet above the roadway, and its “international orange” color stood out against the blue skies. In my opinion, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most beautiful man-made structures, and it fits in with its natural surroundings. It is perfectly designed for its placement.
When you visit, your first stop on the San Francisco side should be the visitor’s center. It sits in a plaza with a small parking lot (see below for other parking options), a snack bar and a café. There are several historical and scientific displays about the bridge. From the visitor’s center, was up to the overlook. From here you have a great view of the bridge and the Golden Gate.
The walkways on the bridge can get crowded on a nice day, especially if only one walkway is open. There are hundreds of pedestrians, along with a large number of bicyclists, so keep your eyes open.
Walking along the bridge is a unique experience. First, it is windy. Even on a calm day the temperature difference between the cool ocean air and warm air over inland California create a near constant breeze. Second, it is high. 220 feet above the mean high water mark. This height gives a wonderful view of Alcatraz, San Francisco and the bay. It is the view that makes the walk worth the effort. The Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay are beautiful. The view from the bridge is one of a kind.
Getting There – The Bridge sits at the northwestern corner of the San Francisco peninsula. It is completely surrounded by The Presidio, the decommissioned military base. There are multiple bus lines from the center of the city to the bridge toll plaza. I would highly recommend parking at the main lot in the Presidio, near the Presidio Welcome Center. You can park all day there for $8.50 and take a free shuttle to the bridge, and to other places around the Presidio. This also gives access to several, hiking and bicycle trails, restaurants, and other activities.